A visitor is a potential customer only for a fleeting moment while he checks out your landing-page, menu, or services. However, as soon as he gets bored and decides to leave, he will probably never return. What many businesses fail to understand is that every potential customer that abandons your site has the potential of converting. How? Through email marketing.
Email matters because people don’t change their email addresses. Furthermore, according to a WiseMetrics research, engagement as a percentage of your audience is significantly higher through email. A Facebook post is only visible to roughly 25% of your audience while tweets are only visible to less than 10% of followers.
When it is implemented correctly, email marketing can become the most powerful tool in your arsenal. If you aren’t reaching out or following-up with your visitors via email, then you are missing out on potential sales. These days, marketers have replaced emails with social media status updates and tweets. This doesn’t mean that email marketing is any less effective.
Email Marketing Statistics you Need to Know | Image courtesy of Adobe
As a matter of fact, having people subscribe to your email list is more important than ever before. Internet users are constantly interrupted by annoying sales pitches, advertisements, and cat pictures. As opposed to social networks which are extremely noisy, email accounts represent the only quiet place in the midst of chaos.
The following guide will teach you how to build a great email campaign from the ground up.
1. Define your Audience
Before you start building your list and crafting your emails, you must define your audience. Understanding the needs & desires of people who will be reading your emails will enable you to steer them through the sales funnel and persuade them to take action.
Don’t have any subscribers yet?
This is actually great because you can clearly define your target audience from the beginning. Think about their needs & pain-points, where you will find them, and what they would want to read in your emails.
Email marketing software will help you identify subscribers at different stages of the sales funnel. For example, if a user subscribed during the checkout process, then he is already a customer. On the other hand, if a group of people subscribed using your website, or after attending a public event, they can be classified as prospects or leads.
2. Build your Email Marketing List
Before you start using email marketing to generate sales or grow your website you have to be sure that you aren’t breaking any email laws. Most countries, including the U.S., have very strict regulations that determine what you can & cannot do with email marketing (e.g. providing an email unsubscribe option, including your physical address, not purchasing email lists, etc.).
Recommended Read: CAN-SPAM Act: A Compliance Guide for business
Now that you know who you want to target, it’s time to start building your email database. There are three basic steps that you need to follow in order to build your email list:
Step #1: Set-up an email marketing software.
Step #2: Start collecting email addresses from your existing database.
Step #3: Set-up an email signup form on your landing pages.
Before we jump in, let’s quickly define three terms that you will
- Opt-in refers to the action of subscribing for an email newsletter either by clicking a button or by signing-up.
- Double opt-in refers to the process of signing up to an email newsletter and then confirming the action via email. Double opt-ins will prevent you from collecting spam emails in your database.
- The welcome email represents the final step in the sign-up final.
Let’s quickly overview the most effective email listing building strategies:
2.1. Embed an Email Signup Form on your Site
Most email marketing software provide email signup forms that you can embed directly on your site to increase the number of opt-ins. Instead of designing the entire form as an independent page, you can drop it directly on your site and complement it with matching color schemes and typefaces.
Signup forms can be added to your website’s footer, header, sidebar, about page, or contact page. You can also use pop-up signup forms just as your visitors are about to exit your site. Offer them a free resource to encourage opt-ins. If you want to get started with pop-ups you should take a look at SumoMe, an email marketing service that allows you to add three types of pop-ups on your site.
2.2. Encourage Existing Subscribers to Share your Emails
You can add social sharing or “email to a friend” buttons in your marketing emails to encourage subscribers to forward your messages. Make sure to include a “Subscribe” CTA at the bottom of the email to encourage opt-ins for forwarded emails.
2.3. Grow your Email List with Social Media
Here are a few ways in which you can grow your email list with social media:
- Use your Facebook Page to promote offers that require email subscriptions. Promote a contest, eBook, or new offer on your timeline and be sure to include add social sharing buttons & thank-you messages on your landing page to encourage visitors to share the content.
- Add calls-to-action and annotations to your YouTube videos to encourage viewers to subscribe to your lists.
- Create a Twitter campaign to promote your free resources and eBooks that require email addresses to redeem.
- Use your LinkedIn page or Pinterest Account to publish links to your gated offers.
- Add a call-to-action button on your Facebook Business Page to collect email addresses.
2.4. Use Traditional Marketing
We may be using the online more than ever, but offline events continue to be one of the most effective methods of capturing emails. You can collect new emails for your database by attending offline events in your industry, sending direct mail, or hosting your own conference, meetups or educational panels.
2.5. Create Valuable Content
If you want to capture relevant emails you have to provide value. You can do this by creating a whitepaper, case-study or eBook. Want to take it a step further? Create a free resource or online tool and have users sign-up with their email for access. For example, HubSpot created a free “Website Grader” to capture new emails. It worked like a charm.
2.6. Show a Subscribe Page before your Page’s Content
To be honest, I find this option intrusive and slightly annoying, but it works. For example, Andrew Chen’s page greets you with a subscribe page and call-to-action. If you aren’t sure about this method, I recommend A/B testing it.
3. Segment your Email List
Even if you have less than 100 people on your email list, it’s not too soon to start segmenting your audience based on the type of content that they are looking for. You will probably want to offer different products to unique groups. Segmenting your email subscribers and tailoring your email marketing is better than a one-size-fits-all approach.
Below are a few ways in which you can segment large, unrefined lists:
- Daily email list.
- Newsletter list.
- Customer list.
- Prospects list.
- Returning customers list.
- Close friends or employees (yes, some companies send email updates to their employees).
Don’t try too hard to emulate strategies from big companies & pay attention to your statistics.
“If subscribers drop off, look at your content. Are you sending the right information? Are you sending it too often? Too many messages saying ‘buy! Buy! Buy’ can be really off-putting to people.” – Jill Bastian, Training & Education Manager for VerticalResponse
Pro Tip: One of the biggest challenges of email marketing is responding to all the messages you receive. An autoresponder will save your time and sanity.
4. Never Stop Testing
A simple Google search for “email marketing best practices” will present you with an overwhelming array of contradictory information. That’s because there is no universal approach or perfect blueprint to email marketing. You will have to analyze your data and A/B test with different email marketing templates & strategies to see what works for you.
Image Source: Myemma.com
Here are a few things that you’ll want to take a look at:
- The subject line is the first thing that a subscriber sees. Should you use subject lines with a lot of information, or short and enticing ones? Nobody knows. This is where A/B split testing comes into play. You should craft two different subject lines for the same mail to see which one gets a better response.
- The email length doesn’t have a cookie-cutter answer either. Email length can vary according to the type of message you are sending and your target audience. Mix up your email length to see which one is more effective.
- Subject matter. You will soon notice that subscribers have different topics that they gravitate towards. Take a look at your open rates to see which emails work better for your audience. Keep an eye on the emails that have the highest open rates and try to replicate them.
- Email frequency. The recipe for success with email marketing is If you promised your subscribers one email/week, you’d better deliver on that promise. I strongly recommend making an email schedule. You should send emails when they have the highest chances of being read. For example, if you send an email on Saturday night, by Monday it will be lost in the sea of incoming emails, but sending it on Monday morning will ensure that it’s at the top of your subscribers’ inbox.
5. Determine your Content
What exactly is your purpose with email marketing?
What have you promised to your subscribers?
I recommend creating an outline of content types that you want to include in your emails. A healthy mix of sales messages and informative/entertaining emails will improve the loyalty of your subscribers.
For example, you can send email updates with upcoming events, photos from past events, popular posts on your blog, new offers, interviews, news coverage, etc. Never forget to reward your audience by providing them with exclusive information and offers.
Email Marketing Best Practices
Email marketing is all about expectations. If your call-to-action is powerful, and your follow-up consistent, then the results of your campaign will be positive. However, if you promise the moon and stars but fail to deliver, you will most likely upset your subscribers.
Let’s take a look at several email marketing best practices that will make your subscribers happy and increase your sales.
Image Source: here.
- Know when to pitch. If you have a habit of pitching your products in every email, you should try to put yourself in your subscribers’ shoes. Is your promise consistent with the content of your mails? If you don’t know how to pitch your products or services, you should subscribe to Amazon’s newsletter. The retailing giant makes offers based on its subscribers’ buying habits, which is far more effective than sending blind offers.
- Find your voice. Emails don’t necessarily have to be written in a formal tone. As a small business owner, you can create conversational and funny emails. What made people subscribe to your newsletter in the first place? Was it your witty remarks? Insightful articles, or sarcastic humor? Spend some time to find your company’s voice, and watch as your response rates soar.
- Create quality content. A common mistake that many small businesses make is the fact that they slap on some product photos in a mail and say “Okay, go buy this. Now.” People won’t keep reading your emails if you don’t spend some time writing something of value. One of the most effective email marketing strategies is creating content that is genuinely helpful for the reader (e.g. how-to article, tips & product help).
- Make sure your email is readable. Your emails must be readable no matter what device the reader is on! Use correctly scaled & compressed images, bullets & subheadings for quick-scanning, and an attractive design for your mail. Don’t forget to break up your paragraphs in sizeable chunks and to remove unnecessary sentences.
- Start small. If you’re not sure how and when you should reach out to subscribers, I recommend starting small. If you want to increase email frequency later on, you can simply mail your subscribers and ask for their consent.
Email Marketing Software
As previously mentioned, you will need an email marketing software to set-up & track the success of your campaign. Below are several email marketing services that you can choose from:
1. Mail Chimp
Official Site: MailChimp | Price: Free, start at $20,00 /month
MailChimp has all the features you will ever need to create a powerful email marketing campaign. It is also the only email marketing tool that offers a free account. Even for beginners, the software is incredibly easy to use.
|MAILCHIMP PROS||MAILCHIMP CONS|
|– Free plans for small businesses.
– Inbuilt email templates & campaigns editor.
– Great integrations with third-party software.
– Insanely easy to use.
|– No analytics or auto-responder features for the free account.
– Slow refresh on reports.
– They force double opt-ins to keep delivery services whitelisted.
2. Listrak | eCommerce Marketing Automation
Official site: Listrak
Listrak is a leader in email marketing. The tool offers streamlined dashboard, good integrations, A/B testing, and great heat map tracking tool. It is worth nothing that Listrak also has an extremely friendly and capable customer support team.
|LISTRAK PROS||LISTRAK CONS|
|– Ideal for automated campaigns (e.g. shopping cart abandonment, post-purchase campaigns, etc.)||– Difficult to enable conversion traffic for BigCommerce.
– Limited reporting capabilities.
A review from Michelle W.:
“With Listrak, we have had great success netting profitable sales and expanding our mailing list without repetitive manual tasks. We have a modal pop-up which incentivizes customers to sign up and it has increased sign-ups over 10x.” Source: G2Crowd
3. Constant Contact
Official site: ConstantContact
Constant Contact used to be free. Now, the prices have gone up by quite a bit, making the software one of the most expensive ones on the market. Constant Contact charges its users $50/month for 2,500-5,000 subscribers.
Considering that the email marketing service has poorer integrations with third party software, and mediocre email templates, it’s difficult to understand how it justifies the costs. There are several notable features. First of all, Constant Contact seems like a one-stop shop, because it offers everything from surveys to feedback forms and registration tools. Secondly, auto-responders and email newsletters are stupidly easy to set-up with Constant Contact.
|CONSTANT CONTACT PROS||CONSTANT CONTACT CONS|
|– Personal marketing coach that will assist users with their questions.
– Unique features beyond email marketing.
|– Slightly expensive in comparison with its competitors.
– Mediocre integrations with third-party software.
“Constant Contact allows me to put descriptions about all of our new features directly in the inbox of our customers. My unsubscribe rate is minimal and I have a high read-rate on the newsletters that I sent out.” Source: G2Crowd
Official Site: Aweber
I’ve always felt that the Aweber dashboard looks a bit outdated. Nevertheless, this email marketing tool has a lot of great features, especially for those starting out. One thing that sets Aweber apart from its competitors is its reporting tool that shows users what works and what doesn’t work.
For advanced users, Aweber offers split testing for different segments of your list, and the ability to compare open & engagement rates.
|AWEBER PROS||AWEBER CONS|
|– Great features: auto-responders, RSS-to-email.
– WordPress plugin for setting up email signup forms on your site.
|– Outdated dashboard.
– Limited third-party integration
“Aweber gives you the flexibility to manage contacts and customize your own email templates, but not a lot of third-party integration. If you want email marketing without a lot of fuss, Aweber deserves a look.” – Source: PcMag
Official Site: GetResponse
GetResponse is one of the most popular email marketing services because it gets a lot of things right. First of all, it remains affordable even if you grow your list & it’s extremely easy to use. One thing that I appreciate about GetResponse is the fact that it offers a gallery of 500 email templates, all optimized for mobile.
|GETRESPONSE PROS||GETRESPONSE CONS|
|– Great features: single opt-ins, good delivery rates, mobile inbox preview, TimeTravel, etc.
– Integration with third-party services + custom integration with their API.
– A/B testing & fantastic autoresponders.
|– Mediocre form builder.
– Limited automation rules.
– Some tasks are unusually hard to complete (e.g. deleting a subscriber list).
Official Site: ActiveCampaign | Price: $9/month
ActiveCampaign is by far one of the best email marketing services. It’s powerful, extremely easy to use, cost-effective, and it uses its CRM system for automatically nurturing & managing leads.
|Active Campaign Pros||Active Campaign Cons|
|– The ability to create marketing automation sequences (e.g. sending out emails to subscribers when certain goals are met).
– Automated email campaigns for different segments of your subscriber list.
|– Mediocre email campaign creator. Uses drag & drop for creating emails that are difficult to maneuver.
– Not suitable for larger campaigns.
– Basic reporting (open rate, CTR, geo-trends, but no segmented reports)
If you’re new to email marketing, I strongly recommend starting out with one of these tools. They will help you quickly set-up capture forms & customize your email campaigns. What’s more, they offer great resources, guides & tutorials to help you set-up campaigns.
Recommended Read: Email Marketing Field Guide, by MailChimp
Image Sources: Depositphotos.com, Twitter subscribe form.